Friday, September 30, 2016

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

A few months ago I read the popular graphic novel memoir Smile, and from that point onward every book written by Raina Telgemeier became a must-read. Ghosts is just as wonderful as her other works.

Thus far, Telgemeier’s books follow a pattern. Each focuses on a brief, yet influential trial period in a young middle grade female’s life. The books address one trial and the moments involved with it. Telgemeier book moments thus far consist of a damaged smile, an annoying sister and theater drama.

Ghosts is about learning to adjust to a new home and culture. Catrina’s optimistic sister Maya has cystic fibrosis and their family moves to Bahía de la Luna in Northern California because the coastal air will provide a better living space for Maya’s condition. This move proves less than ideal for Catrina (Cat) when she meets a boy her age who tells her about the ghosts that live in Bahía de la Luna.

The story of Cat’s adjustment to her new town and the ghosts that live there is distinguished from other Telgemeier novels because of its multicultural content. Cat & Maya are part of an interracial family and this new town connects them with their Latina heritage. Ghosts also spotlights Día de los Muertos in a fascinating and colorful way; the illustrations in that scene are spectacular.

Telgemeier includes a few pages at the end about the inspiration and research behind this story that spotlights the beautiful thematic elements she chose to portray. Despite the one departure from realism—ghosts really do exist in Bahía del la Luna—Ghosts manages to be far more surprising and heartwarming than even the best of her other books thus far.

As a graphic novels achieve greater acceptance in public school and college courses, this is a book I eventually expect to see taught in classrooms. Smile may be Telgemeier’s most famous work, but Ghosts is more creative and thought provoking.

For similar books not written by Telgemeier, try El Deafo by Cece Bell, a book that focuses on deafness in a young child, or Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm, which distantly focuses on substance abuse. Both are youth graphic novels.

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